Thursday, 14 July 2011

Human Rights Watch accuses rebels of abusing civilians

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Libyan rebels of abusing civilians. Campaigners from the New York based group have interviewed people who have been subjected to violence and mistreatment, as well as witnessed cases of abuse themselves.

Talking to the press in Brussels, rebel “Prime Minister” Mahmoud Jibril denied the allegations focusing on instances of abuse in the recently seized towns of Al-Awaniya, Rayayinah, Zawiyat Al-Bagul and Al-Qawalish. He said: "This is not the case in the liberated areas."

Speaking about the situation, special adviser to HRW, Fred Abrahams said: "The rebel conduct was disturbing…We documented fairly widespread looting of homes and shops, the burning of some homes of suspected Gaddafi supporters and - most disturbingly - the vandalisation of three medical clinics [and] local small hospitals, including the theft of some of the medical equipment."

Reports of abuse on both sides have circulated since the rebellion against Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi began in February. Abrahams said Libyan government was also guilty of human rights abuses and various other crimes, but that did not excuse the behaviour of the rebels. He added: “Our aim is to hold all combatants, all militaries - whether they're organised and states and governments or rebels groups - to the same standards, and it's very much also a warning shot across the bow, because of these other areas they are approaching. We're deeply worried about how they might behave and treat civilians in those areas."

According to the human rights group, the rebels have also been looting shops, homes and medical facilities in the four towns they recently seized in the western part of the country. Senior HRW campaigner Joe Stork noted: "Opposition leaders should halt and punish all rebel abuses…The rebel authorities have a duty to protect civilians and their property - especially hospitals - and discipline anyone responsible for looting or other abuse."

Sources: BBC News, CNN International, Morning Star Online

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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